June 2013 BioSpot issue

The Coral Triangle

Shared benefits and responsibilities

The Coral Triangle refers to a triangular area encompassing portions of the tropical marine waters of the Philippines, Indonesia,a Malaysia, Papua New Guinea, the Solomon Islands and Timor-Leste.  With 500 or more coral species present in each ecoregion, the area is recognized as the geographic centre of global marine biodiversity and an international priority for conservation.

The Coral Triangle covers two biogeographic regions (the Indonesian-Philippines Region and the Far Southwestern Pacific Region) and 5.7 million square kilometres of ocean waters. It is home to 30 percent of the world’s coral reefs, 75 percent of coral species and almost 3,000 species of fish. Ocean currents carry larvae from the coral triangle to other parts of the world supplying the globe with marine resources.

Sustaining Human Life

This marine environment inside the coral triangle is so productive it has the capacity to sustain the lives of over 120 million people. Fishing is a major source of food and employment in the area and the reefs also generate a huge amount of income through tourism.

Reefs Under Threat

More than 85% of the coral triangle is threatened by human activities such as destructive fishing, over-fishing, pollution, coastal development and unsustainable tourism. According to the report by the World Resources Institute, 98 percent of Philippine reefs are threatened by over-fishing and blast or poison fishing.

Only 3 percent of Philippine coral reefs lie within marine protected areas (MPAs) – “no-take” zones. Twenty nine percent of Indonesian waters have been declared MPAs and in Malaysia 11 percent of the underwater environment is protected.

Tubbataha as a Model

Just one percent of reefs in the Coral Triangle Region are considered effectively managed. Among these are 25 MPAs in the Philippines, including Tubbataha Reefs Natural Park. Tubbataha Reef has been recognized as one of the best managed marine protected areas in the western Coral Triangle.

Time to Act

Everyone is a stakeholder of the Coral Triangle – it affects our lives everyday. We must take action to conserve and protect this natural treasure.

The Coral Triangle by Jurgen and Stella Freund

In 2009, photographer Jürgen and writer/producer Stella Freund began an 18-month photojournalistic expedition into the heart of the Coral Triangle. They set out to investigate the connectivity between the wildlife and peoples of the region – and the threats they are facing.